Project Wonderful

Friday, September 28, 2012

What Your Beer Says About Your Vote

We've all heard the old adage that people vote for the candidate they'd most like to sit down and have a beer with, but what exactly would that beer be? The National Journal analyzed the beer preferences of 200,000 American adults and came up with the chart above. According to my beer preferences, I am a likely voting Republican or really, an Independent because I am a huge beer snob and there are only like four beers up there that I would allow to graze my delicate partisan lips.

The article was sparked by Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World -whose real name is Jonathan Goldsmith (Jew!) and who is actually an extremely interesting dude-'s decision to host a fundraiser for Obama. Both the company and apparently consumers of its beer do not have an official political stance.

Canvassing: It Gets Votes and It Saves Lives

From Oregon Live:
"A Portland man [and canvassing for the Oregon branch of Working America] says he just happened to be at the right place, at the right time Wednesday evening to save an Oregon City woman from a fire in her home and extinguish the flames before crews arrived...

"I was raised to take the initiative to help people when you can," he said. "The opportunity presented itself in this case. But I'd like to think if the tables were turned and I was in trouble, someone would help me...."

Michael Taeu, originally from Hawaii, said he was just glad he could help. His boss gave him the rest of the night off from canvassing."
Really? The night off? Is he aware that the election is in less than 40 days? All kidding aside, this is a wonderful heroic story and I am not at all surprised. The type of people who are politically engaged are the type of people driven to make society better. As this extremely interesting article for my extremely boring poli sci class points out, rational people vote to improve society at large. Truly, we are a wonderful people.

Yard Sign With Candidate's Name On It Electrifies Congressional Race

Hilarious Onion article submitted without comment except this.

Wake the Fuck Up!!

If you haven't seen this, good because that means I am not the last one, but you need to watch this right now then you need to share it with all your friends. Not only is it clever and hilarious but it so accurately captures the problem with voter apathy this season. Do people not see that this election is actually more important than the last one? And yes, fellow nerds, I mean 2008 not like last week or 2010.

So this is amazing and it is sponsored by the Jewish Education and Research Council, which also brought us The Great Schlep and Sarah Silverman's latest Voter ID piece. Can't think of two groups I am prouder to be a part of. I'm kvelling!!!

Website Here.
Safe for Work version here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Brazilian Elections Sound Awesome

"At least 16 candidates for municipal elections have adopted the name "Obama" to try to get more votes on October 7. There are plenty of "Baracks," as well as "Ricardo Obama," "Wilson Obama" and even "Barata Obama," which literally translates as "Cockroach Obama."

...And it doesn't stop with the U.S. president. As candidates try to stand out, ballots are filled with the names of characters like Batman, Robin, Superman and Rambo. And there are even some oddball characters like gyrating dancers, Santa Claus and a "Bin Laden" who says he'll "blow up corruption."The candidates dress in costumes during their short electoral spots, hoping to grab the attention of would-be voters.

...One of the Obama candidates has another explanation for many of the bizarre names adopted during elections. "There is so much corruption in politics that people sometimes prefer to vote for a candidate who isn't a real person," said Gerson Januario de Almeida. He's running for councilman in the central Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte with the name "Obama BH." For the last couple of years, he has worked as a Barack Obama impersonator at parties and events.

...Obama BH says he's pretty sure no one has adopted the name of the Republican U.S. presidential candidate."

The corruption thing is obviously awful. On the other hand, can you imagine getting to vote for Batman as NYC Mayor and there being a real chance of him winning? That would be awesome.

Same Day Registration in California!

Starting in 2014. Read about it here.

Today In Voter Suppression

An interesting argument in the South Carolina case:

Garrard Beeney, arguing on behalf of civil rights organizations intervening in the case, also noted that South Carolina law required notaries to determine if someone is intoxicated or on drugs before they signed an affidavit. Given that blacks are less likely to have a form of state-issued identification, he said, the law would lead to them being asked that question in disproportionate numbers at the polls.

“We’d now have, in the polling place, 21,000 human breathalyzers to determine whether someone in eligible to vote,” Beeney argued.

Judge Bates agreed, noting that “an even-handed application of ‘are you drunk’ is going to end up affecting more African-Americans” because of the racial make up of the pool of voters who lack identification.

Oh boy. Could you even imagine what that would look like?

Voter Suppression Round Up

So much is going on in the Republican War On Voting, that even I am starting to lose track. I thought it might be helpful to put down on internet paper some of the cases I've mentioned on the blog and where they stand right now.

A federal court rejected Texas' voter ID law, which means it will (likely) not be in effect for the November election. However, Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott has pledged to appeal the ruling. If the Supreme Court agrees with him, the law could be in effect in future elections. In addition, part of the lawsuit that Abbott filed challenges the validity of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which states that jurisdictions with a history of racial prejudice (including Texas) need to get changes in local voting law approved by a federal court before they can be enacted. This may wind up leading to landmark case.

South Carolina
Federal court closing arguments on South Carolina's voter ID law ended today, so we will have to wait and watch.

The State Supreme Court returned the Voter ID Case to lower court vacating a prior ruling that would have upheld the controversial law. The Supreme Court is asking the lower court to review whether it is really practical for voters to get the necessary ID to comply with the law and vote before election day.

Voting Rights advocates have successfully overturned a law that heavily restricts community based voter registration drives. Florida has also stopped its purge of voter rolls upon the revelation that the government was using outdated lists. However, the Justice Department has sustained Florida's decision to eliminate early voting on the Sunday before election day, when black churches traditionally run their "Souls to the Polls" programs.

The Obama campaign and other plaintiffs successfully fought Secretary of State John Husted over a diminished early voting period by arguing that under the Equal Protection Clause Ohio had to offer the same early voting hours to civilians as were offered to military personnel. Then bizarely Husted issued a directive prohibiting counties from following the ruling and U.S. District Judge Peter Economus hauled Husted into court personally. Economus has rejected a request to delay enforcement of the law. The case is currently being appealed.

As you can see, many of these cases are still unsettled, so please feel free to shoot me a note correcting me with more updated information.

Keep fighting the good fight,

There Is No Such Thing As Not Voting

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote.
- David Foster Wallace

When I read this quote I nearly cried because it articulates so well something I have been trying to convey for years. And I am rarely out-loquated. I am by no means a tattoo person but if I ever did get a tattoo that didn't wash off with soap and water, it would have to be this. I knew I had to share it everywhere I could, starting with you.

Ask An Election Nerd: What's Next?

A tumblr follower asks, "What exactly do people on campaigns do after the election is over? After all, in most states (VA, MS, NJ excepted) you have about six months to a year before the next cycle starts to take shape."

I've been getting this question A LOT lately. I'm gonna start off by asking "What is wrong with you people?!?!" When I was on campaigns I never thought about what I would do afterwards because I was so focused on election day. So my first piece of advice is "Don't worry about it!" You have enough stressing you out now that you don't need to worry about the (stressful) job search after.

I was also able to relax because when EMILY's List placed me on my first campaign in 2006, they promised me that I would have access to their network and that they would help me find a job post-election. One of my absolute favorite things about the progressive campaign community is that more so than in any other field I know, we go out of our way to support each other. I am a huge proponent of mentorship and sponsorship and I have found that if you do good work campaign people will bend over backwards to help you because they know what you've been through and they appreciate the kind of work ethic that it takes. Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere and I, as I bet your boss and her boss and her boss are, am committed to helping hard working campaign folk find gainful employment.

I would challenge your assessment of campaign opportunities in the off year. There are certainly fewer jobs available than during a Presidential campaign, but fewer people are interested in taking them. There will be recounts, issue based campaigns, special elections and all of manner of things to keep us campaign nerds occupied.

There are also a myriad of opportunities in related fields. Many former operatives go off to seek their fortunes on the legislative side of government (shudder) either in DC or locally. Others go to work for non-profits that focus on the issues that got them involved in campaigns in the first place. A fair number, like yours truly, eventually go back to school. This is not to say you cannot do something else completely. Being an organizer, finance assistance or other campaign worker trains you in time management, marketing, customer service, crisis control and occasionally as a copy machine repair person. If you do want to go into a field where your employer will likely be unfamiliar with the skills built on the campaign trail, be sure you have a clear vision of what you want to do and are able to articulate how your experiences will make you an asset.

If you do want to remain in the professional progressive community, on campaigns or otherwise, I encourage you to network through your campaign contacts. You'd be surprised what a small world we travel in and how much a recommendation from a mutual broworker can open doors. Here are some other resources for you to consider:

EMILY's List Job Bank
Democratic Gain (Which is already advertising that it will help with post-campaign employment)
Tom Manatos (Especially good for, but not limited to, searching for jobs on the Hill.)
NOI Jobs Board (Non-Profit Jobs)

I also want to encourage you to take some time off if you're able. Unlike certain Presidential candidates, I realize that not everybody has the luxury of going home to their parents' house and vegging out for a month or so, but if you do I highly recommend it.

I hope I've assuaged your apprehension. Now stop worrying about this can get back on the phones! We have an election to win!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Obama Rae Jepsen

Okay this is so dumb, but I can't stop laughing. Last one, I promise.

Simpsons: Homer Votes

Hat tip to my frientist, Joshie for bringing this to my attention. I promise you the blog is not becoming a video repository, but I want to at least keep you amused until I have to time to write again.

SNL Undecided Voters

This is so spot on.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Today In Voter Suppression: Jokes

From the website:

1) These are not bipartisan efforts. They are initiated by Republicans, passed by Republicans, and signed into law by Republicans. The State House Majority Leader in PA asserted that these voter restrictions would allow Mitt Romney to win the state.

2) The voters most likely to be burdened by these new voting restrictions are Democrats. Consider which voters don't have ID. Among seniors and young voters, 18% don't have valid ID. Among African Americans, 25% don't have valid ID.

3) Restrictions on voting, like poll taxes and "literacy" tests, have a long history. They are used by one party to prevent supporters of another party from voting.

4)If someone were trying to steal an election, in person voter fraud, where a voter pretends to be someone they are not at the polls, is the last method anyone would chose. Absentee ballot stuffing is much easier. But more Republicans vote by absentee ballot. So no new restrictions on absentee voting.

5) The Brennan Center has estimated that as many as 3.2 million citizens could find it harder to vote because of new voter ID laws.

Couldn't have said it better myself! Hooray for Sarah Silverman! She uses her comedy career to get people to vote, I use my get people vote career to make people laugh! Jews!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Favorite Campaign Video Of Ever

Here are some things I love; voting, West Wing and progressive women running for office. So, this video is basically like if ice cream were singing 90's karaoke while drinking a dirty martini. Bridget Mary McCormack is Regular Mary McCormack's sister (the one in the video saying that she is probably hot, smart and delightful) which is how this hot, smart and delightful campaign video came to be.

Here is the candidate in question's website.

Super Easy Voter Registration/Absentee Ballot Request Tool!

Click here to be redirected to the Turbovote website.

So easy in fact that I nearly requested an absentee ballot by accident while playing around with it. That's right, I GET TO VOTE IN PERSON IN MY HOME STATE IN THE GENERAL ELECTION. Pass it on!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Taking Back Religion: I Don't Swim in Your Toilet, Please Don't Jew in My Job.

Tonight at sundown begins "Days of Awe," one of the holiest times in the Jewish calendar. This is a time when Jews look back on the year behind us and forward to the year ahead, atone for our sins and ask God to inscribe us in the Book of Life. For me, as with everything else, it's impossible to separate these events from the election cycle, since I tend to imbue campaigns with an almost spiritual significance anyway. Coincidence that the High Holidays coincide with the final push toward GOTV? Debatable. That said, I want to make an impassioned plea for my rabbi to leave the election out of his sermon this holiday season.

One either under or over reported aspect of the Democratic National Convention (depending on where you get your news) was President Obama's insistence on including God in the Democratic platform. Glossing over my feelings on that as a politico (Anti! What is this, the McCarthy era? There's this little thing called separation of church and state! And what we just do stuff because the right wing dares us to now?) and my feelings on including Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (Pro! Either we recognize a government as legitimate or we don't. Plus Democrats do need the Jewish vote.) I was offended as a religious person. Who are you to assume we have the same concept of God? And who are you to use the Creator of the Universe to score political points? Bringing the election into religion cheapens both.

Last week I went to a seminar at my synagogue to get edJEWcated about the upcoming holidays. The presenter went on a long metaphor about how God is like Barack Obama and we've elected him our leader and now he makes the decisions. What? No! No! No! No! No! No! First of all, I'm pretty sure we didn't elect God. If we did, we certainly wouldn't be Jewish, since we make up .2% of the world's population. (Also, we didn't choose him, he chose us. That's what makes us the Chosen People.) Setting aside my religions beliefs, what really upsets me is that this metaphor absolves us of responsibility in our own government. To pretend that our relationship with our elected officials is one of absolute authority, rather than accountability is antithetical to our democracy. If our leaders have supreme power, then why do we vote? Or even if we vote, why do we engage after the election? Jewish text makes it clear that we have a responsibility to participate in the election regardless of how we vote.

Last year at Rosh Hashana services, the rabbi used our divided Congress as an example of the bickering and fray we should stay above in the upcoming year. I was LIVID. I don't want my religious leaders promoting political apathy! I don't need the rabbi at the one place I go to not think about elections using the sentiment that is the bane of my professional existence to get cheap laughs. I couldn't enjoy the rest of the service. Temple is the one place where I know I can go to concentrate on myself and my emotional well being. When you invoke elections, I feel like I have to be "on."

That brings me to another point. Religious leaders should not use modern political metaphors because they so often get it wrong. At the pre-holiday seminar I attended, the rabbinic fellow leading the conversation said the sentence ,"Let's say God gets 271 votes in the electoral college." My companion must have been relieved that I had lost my voice earlier that week because it kept me from shouting "270! He would only need 270!" It was distracting and it made it hard for me to take the rest of what he was saying seriously.

I realize I may be an anomaly, but for me elections just as much as religion are intensely personal, spiritual, and at the very core of who I am. When you blend the two together in a (no pun intended) unholy marriage, it's almost as if you're robbing me of the right to define myself. Telling me how elections work in synagogue is just as offensive as telling me how God works at the DNC. To borrow a phrase from VEEP, using political metaphors in your sermon is like trying to use a croissant as a dildo: It doesn't work and it makes a big mess. So here's the deal: You don't talk about the election at High Holiday services and I won't kick off a canvass from the bima.

L'Shana Tova,

Obama is on the ballot in Kansas (and other things that should not be news)

NYT: "Citing a wave of angry backlash, a Kansas man on Friday withdrew a petition in which he argued that President Obama should be removed from the state’s election ballot because he did not meet citizenship requirements."

But here's the amazing part: "The state will continue to try to obtain the birth certificate...But without the petition, Mr. Obama will remain on the ballot, Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach told The Associated Press."

Need I ask the question, "What's the Matter With Kansas?"


Who Else Is Running for President?

On Thursday, I went to vote in our local Democratic primaries to choose between two career politician hacks for State Senate. I thought "this is what those GDI third party types must feel like all the time." Don't get me wrong, I don't agree with President Obama on everything, but I do feel incredibly lucky that there is a major party candidate whom I am actually excited to vote for. Still, it prompted my interest to see what the third parties had to offer this Presidential season.

Please check out these candidates' websites for more information.
You can see who is on the ballot where with this handy chart. I recognize that the left-right spectrum is a little simplistic and that one of the things that a third parties have to offer is nuance, but I wanted to give you a shortcut to figuring out where these candidates stand. Also note that candidates who did not have a website were not represented and that Peta Lindsay of the Socialism and Liberation party is not included because she is too young to Constitutionally qualify. Roseanne Barr's candidacy will get its own post.

President: Jill Stein
Vice President: Cheri Honkala
Affiliation: Green Party
Left-Right Spectrum: Left of Obama
Background: "Dr. Jill Stein is a mother, physician, longtime teacher of internal medicine, and pioneering environmental-health advocate."
Issues: The Green New Deal, Workers' Rights
Quote/Slogan: "Another US is Possible. Another Party is Necessary"

President: Virgil Goode
Vice President: Jim Clymer
Affiliation: Constit ution Party
Left-Right Spectrum:Right of Romney
Background:Former member of the Army National Guard, Democrat-turned-Republican Congressman from 1997-2009
Issues: Immigration, Deficit
Quote/Slogan: "Save America. Citizenship Matters."

President: Stewart Alexander
Vice President: Alex Mendoza
Affiliation: Socialist Party
Left-Right Spectrum: Left of Obama
Background: Political Activist
Issues: Socialism, Equality
Quote/Slogan: "Take the power back!"

President: Rocky Anderson
Vice President: Luis Rodriguez
Affiliation: Justice Party
Left-Right Spectrum: Left of Obama
Background: Former Mayor of Salt Lake City
Issues: Transparency, Rule of Law
Quote/Slogan: "Replacing private interest corruption with public interest solutions"

President: Tom Hoefling
Vice President: J.D. Ellis
Affiliation: America's Independent Party
Left-Right Spectrum: Right of Romney
Background: Conservative Activist
Issues: Religion, Anti-Choice
Quote/Slogan: "Who represents you?"

Nancy's Ultimate GOTV Playlist

You've been asking for it and here it is! A really good GOTV song has two things 1) It's upbeat or fast paced and can be played loudly in an office or a car. 2)It has some relevant line that can serve as motivation for the weary listener. I've broken up the list into personal favorites, twitter suggestions and honorable mentions. I'm about date myself as to when I was in the field and also reveal my proclivity for loud, mainstream rap music. Enjoy!

Stronger- Kanye West
Not only was this song wildly popular during my formative organizing years, it has just the right beat and tempo to cut and print lists to at 1am.

Standout lines: "That that that that don't kill me can only make me stronger. I need you to hurry up now, cause I can't wait much longer" AND "There's a thousand yous, there's only one of me" "You know how long I've been on ya...don't act like I never told ya" All make me think of late in the game persuadables.

Lose Yourself- Eminem
The slow intensity of the song is perfect to listen to right before for example...walking into the caucus you've been preparing for for 11 months? Psyching your organizers up before the last persuasion canvass of the season?

Standout lines: "You only get one shot do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime" AND "Success if my only motherfuckin' option, failure's not"

4 Minutes- Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake
I love this song before a late in the season canvass or call time. Perfecting for instilling a sense of urgency.

Standout line: "We only got 4 minutes to save the world."

Vote Baby Vote- Deee-lite
Unlike the others, this song was definitely made for a GOTV'ing purpose. I am still trying to figure out how to make this my ringtone.

Standout line: "Vote, baby vote. Are you registered, baby?"

In The Ayer- Flo Rida
I love that feeling when your GOTV operation is in full swing and it's so well planned that things are running like clockwork. This can't always be the case, but when it is, it's a thing of beauty. Whether you're training people or driving between staging locations, there's nothing like seeing your months of hardworking come to fruition. All you have to do is sit back on auto-pilot and enjoy.

Standout lines: "Oh hot damn, this is my jam!"

Your English Is Good- Tokyo Police Club

I have to admit, I heard this song for the first time this summer and all I could think was "Where have you been all my life?" The vibe is one of both intensity and abandon and the standout lines speak for themselves.

Standout line: "Oh give us your vote, give us your vote, if you know what's good for you!"

Remember The Name- Fort Minor
Not gonna lie, this was a tumblr submission but it was so perfect I moved it up here.

Stand Out Line: "This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, Fifteen percent concentrated power of will, Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name!"

Yes We Can, Can- Pointer Sisters
How every Obama organizer in 2008 wasn't blasting this 24/7 is beyond me. The whole thing is basically a 6 minute long campaign rally as far as I'm concerned. As a bonus, I first discovered this song through listening to a charity set that my advice-giving guru, Dan Savage, DJ'd.

Standout lines: "Now's the time for all good men to get together with one another." AND "I know we can make it. I know that we can. I know darn well we can work it out. Oh yes we can. Oh yes we can. I know can can."

All I Do is Win-DJ Khaled
Also a new edition and favorite amongst my Twitter followers. The name basically says it all.

Standout line: "All I do is win."
My Favorite Follower Suggestions:
When I put the call out, these were some new additions I got from my followers.

Young Leaders of Tomorrow by Duwende

Sing by My Chemical Romance
Down The Road by C2C
Who Needs Sleep by Barenaked Ladies

Honorable Mentions:

Many of my twitter and tumblr followers suggested "I won't back down" preferably Johnny Cash version. I veto'd this off my list because 1)As evidenced by the number of suggestions it received, I believe it to be overplayed and 2) It's too low key, it sounds to me like we've already lost and somewhat related 3) It is inextricably linked in my memory to the Edwards campaign.
Gone'Till November is a campaign staple and certainly in my most frequently played list for obvious reasons. I left it off this one because by the end of GOTV it IS November and this is really a campaign-long anthem.
I Turn My Camera On by Spoon. This didn't make the cut because I couldn't find a standout line to fit rule number 2, but it's a hellava jam. It is on my personal GOTV list.

At a follower's suggestion, I also made a Campaignsick GOTV Playlist on Spotify which you can search for and I believe edit...but feel free to correct me on that one.

Happy GOTV'ing!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Oh, Get Over Yourselves

If you want to take umbrage with the way Republicans talk about women, be my guest. You can discuss Paul Ryan's vote against Equal Pay, Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments or Michele Bachmann's belief that wives should be submissive to their husbands. But when it comes to Ohio Governor John Kasich talking about his wife doing the laundry, everyone needs to CTFO.

Kasich's comment was meant to highlight the very real sacrifice that candidates' wives make to help their spouses run for office, it was not a universal prescription for all married relationships nor an indictment of working women.
Listen for yourself above. He doesn't even say "wives" he says "spouses."

"It’s not easy to be a spouse of an elected official," he said. "You know, they’re at home, doing the laundry and doing so many things while we’re up here on the stage getting a little bit of applause, right? They don’t often share in it. And it is hard for the spouse to hear the criticism and to put up with the travel schedule and to have to be at home taking care of the kids. And where is the politician? Out on the road."

Far be it for me to define feminism for anybody, but it seems to me that temporarily taking a back seat to help your spouse of any gender succeed in his/her career is a perfectly valid and supportive choice. Kasich's wife actually had a career for many years. The presumption that Gov. Kasich and his counterparts somehow forced their wives into these roles rather than that these women made a choice as part of their partnerships seems more anti-feminist.

There are a lot of creepy, deplorable things in John Kasich's record on women (like the fact that he pays his male staffers 56% more than his female staffers) but I call bullshit on this. I don't approve of Republicans degrading women to score political points and I won't sanction the reverse.

Don't worry, there is PLENTY at the crossroads of gender and politics that is actually worth spending time on this election cycle.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

GOTV Training BINGO!

This morning I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes on the daily conference call of a region that is headed to their GOTV training this weekend. Thinking about my own experience with GOTV, I tried to envision what lay ahead for these organizers. GOTV trainings are daunting, exciting, and extremely important but can also be formulaic and predictable (for better or worse.) My trip down memory lane yielded some phrases and experiences that are bound to appear cycle after cycle. If you are headed to a statewide training this or another weekend, be on the lookout for the following words and sights and let me know who is the first to get BINGO! (Apologies, you'll have to zoom in to read the chart.)

Have fun! Get sleep! Don't forget, your statewide leadership wouldn't ask of you anything they didn't know you are capable of achieving!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Where's the Money?

Thanks to the National Journal you can see who's spending the most money in ads in battleground states where and the latest thing they've put on TV. (See one of my fav's above.) Pretty cool!

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Mom Tells You What To Eat

My momma!

Have you ever thought to yourself, “man, I wish I had a Jewish mother telling me what to eat on the campaign trail?” Probably not. But mine is a Nutritionist Registered Dietitian and she has generously offered some advice to keep you healthy for the next couple of months! I’m going to offer this disclaimer that I know it is not realistic to expect any organizer to follow these rules 100% of the time, (I already talked my mom down from her suggestion that you eat non-fat cheese sticks and yogurt instead of pizza) but in the spirit of rule 5, let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Ladies and broworkers, I give you, my mommy:

I have second hand experience with the campaign trail but my first hand experienced daughter informs me that it can be quite the challenge to maintain any sort of a healthful diet while working in the field.

As a registered dietitian, and, well, someone with common sense, it comes as no surprise that poor eating habits will only serve to sap the much needed energy one needs to campaign. I offer therefore my suggestions for easy ways to maintain a healthful diet for anyone with a very busy job, limited income and very little if any time prepare your own food.

The microwave oven and office refrigerator can be your best food friends on the trail. The grocery store freezer section, as well as the produce aisle and the dairy section are filled with ready- made low-calorie, low-fat foods that are both low cost and flavorful.

In the produce section choose fruit that is in season. Not only will this fruit be the lowest cost, but it will also have the best taste. Fruits that you can buy in larger quantities but that do not spoil quickly are apples, pears, and oranges (think clementines!). These are all fruits that are coming into the groceries stores now at good prices. Keep the fruit in the refrigerator but be sure to grab a few on your way out to knock doors. That way when your stomach growls you will have a handy and delicious snack.

Pre-made bagged salads allow you to rip open a bag, add a little (no more than 2 tablespoons) of dressing or better yet use lemon juice with a small amount of healthful oil such as extra-virgin olive oil on your salad and enjoy. Top with one of those foil bags (~3 oz) of tuna packed in oil and you have an instant meal. Add a slice of high-fiber bread if you’d like but keep away from those bagels. Keep in mind¼ of a bagel is the equivalent to one slice of high fiber bread. Don’t forget bags of baby carrots that are a great snack anytime!

Check out the freezer section for individual servings of brands like Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine, and Healthy Choice. There is a wide variety of entrées available. Look for the brand on sale and stock up with enough to go a week or two depending on freezer space at your home or office. A few minutes inthe microwave and you have a tasty meal without splurging on excess calories, fat or sodium (check the nutrition label).

Can’t stop yourself when the late night pizza comes in the door along with your co-workers? Limit yourself to one slice and add your own heaping topping of salad or chopped spinach (raw or cooked).

Need a sweet treat? Buy individual Dixie cups of ice cream instead of a big container. The proper portion size is premeasured for you and should be just enough to fend off binges. Or if you are more of a cookie person, try chocolate (or your favorite flavor) of graham crackers. 2-4 squares provides the sweet taste you are looking for without much fat and with a little fiber as a bonus. Cereal bars and fiber bars can be a treat as well but check out the calories before you buy. Some of those are over 200 calories, about the same as many candy bars.

Want something great you can share around the office? Popcorn! Skip the prepackaged microwave brands which are not only expensive but usually full of fat and chemicals. Instead opt for a bag of kernels that is sure to last until well after election day. An air popper or a plastic pot (microwave safe with air holes to let steam escape) can be used over and over again. Each person can top their
own generous popped portion of 2-3 cups. CampaignSick’s Nancy Leeds recommends crumble dried seaweed snacks. Other ideas are sea salt (be sure not to overdo it), a few tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese or a few shakes of herb seasoning.

Now that you have the tools, you’ll be able to campaign, keep your weight in check and keep your energy up until November 6th. May the best candidates win!

Sari Schlussel-Leeds, MS, RD, CDN

Friday, September 7, 2012

Conventional Rhetoric: Race, Class and Welfare

The Republican convention played heavily on the issue of entitlement reform and as result there is a lot of information (and misinformation) floating around. Unsure of what to believe myself, I did some research and tried to synthesize what I learned below.

One challenge to the Republican ticket is separating their stance on things like Food Stamps and Medicaid from that on Medicare, particularly now that Mitt Romney has chosen Paul Ryan as a runningmate. Ryan, as you may remember, gained prominence on the national stage after proposing an austere budget that, among other measures, would cut Medicare. This is a problem for Republicans because their plan for victory is predicated on winning a large majority of older white voters, many of whom rely heavily on the program. Republicans are aware of the risk they run by running Ryan, as is evidenced by a leaked memo from the National Republican Campaign Committee instructing Congressional offices on how to deal with the issue.
“Do not say: ‘entitlement reform,’ ‘privatization,’ ‘every option is on the table,’” ...Do say: ‘strengthen,’ ‘secure,’ ‘save,’ ‘preserve, ‘protect.’”
The contributer who wrote about the leaked memo seems to be critical of this strategy, which I think is unfair. (Not surprising however, given the lack luster journalistic ethics employed by some former contributers.) Sure it's spin, but that's how the sausage is made. Republicans have every right to attempt to frame the debate as they see it. For the record, I checked to see how successful the memo was at controlling the convention rhetoric. Here's how they did:
Words to Say:
Strengthen 6:2, Democrats
Secure 5:3, Democrats
Save 6:4, Democrats
Protect 8:6 Democrats

Words Not to Say:
Entitlement 2:0, Republicans

Words listed in the memo but not mentioned did not come up at either convention.
What I found striking about the memo was not its mere existence, but its advice to steer clear of the word "entitlement" since the crux of the Republican attack plan seems to be linking Obama with Reagan's "Welfare Queens." According to common sense and many in the media, both of these terms, as well as much of the other rhetoric used at the conventions and by the Romney Ryan ticket, are "racist dog whistles." While there is no explicit mention of African Americans, these terms are purposefully being used to conjure up a specifically racially biased image for those older white voters on whom the Republicans rely. The Reagan reference is particularly interesting since both sides are piggybacking off the former President's legacy, Republicans with their Welfare Queens and the Democrats with "Morning in America."

I said above that I don't mind Republican efforts to frame the debate, but I do mind lying--something the Romney Ryan tickets seems to relish. Paul Ryan's argument that the Republican budget plan would actually protect Medicare while the Affordable Care Act stripped it seemed to the GOP's strategy at last week's convention. Except it isn't true. As the Washington Post's Ezra Klein reports:
Ryan and Obama include the same cuts to the Medicare program itself. So if you’re an insurance company participating in the Medicare Advantage program, you’re getting the same cut no matter who wins the election. So the answer to the question [how much does the Romney plan cut Medicare?] is, “the same amount as the Obama administration.”

What Romney/Ryan are saying is that they then take the money saved from their cuts to Medicare and put it toward deficit reduction while Obama takes that money and spends it on health care for poor people. The argument here is that by using the money to cut the deficit, Romney/Ryan make future cuts to Medicare less likely.

But Romney/Ryan also add a trillion dollars to the defense budget. And they have trillions of dollars in tax cuts they haven’t explained how they’re going to pay for. So those decisions make future cuts to Medicare more likely. Meanwhile, Obama cuts defense spending by hundreds of billions of dollars, raises about $1.5 trillion in new taxes, and puts all that money into deficit reduction. So that makes future Medicare cuts less likely.

In addition, quoting Time's Kate Pickert, cuts made by the Affordable Care Act will not reduce benefits for Medicare recipients, but instead by are achieved "eliminating a massive subsidy to private insurers and gradually reducing the rate of growth in payments to some providers." Not reducing payments to those providers simply the growth rate of those payments.

In an even more blatant example of Republican misinformation on the issue, a Romney campaign ad claiming that Obama cut work requirements for Welfare has been proven patently false. Criticism of these falsehoods prompted Romney pollster Neil Newhouse to respond, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers." Oh, okay.

Ronald Brownstein puts it succinctly in a National Journal Article where he points out that the Republican answer to the Democratic accusation that Republicans are raiding the middle class in favor of the rich is that Democrats are raiding the middle class in favor of the poor. Republicans know they need to hammer away on this because as it stands now, swing-state voters trust Obama over Romney to handle issues of Medicaid and Medicare. So far, the middle class seems to know better.

To quote former Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, "I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them." Of course, he lost.

Infographics to Motivate II: Jobs and Vaginas

A friend (an undecided absentee swing voter in Ohio friend, go get 'em guys) posted a question on his facebook wall about the Democratic plan for job growth and I just happened to have the above info graphic from Center for American Progress handy. Pretty impressive and a pretty stark contrast, no?

The New York Times offers a really awesome interactive tool analyzing which words were used at the conventions and how many times by each party. Important words that were used more by Democrats? "Jobs," "Economy" and most dramatically, "Women." Neither convention made use of the word "Doody." You're welcome, I checked. You can access the tool by clicking here.

From the an "if you don't laugh you'll cry" diagram of a woman's body based on right-wing Republican rhetoric. If that's not enough to get you motivated, check out this quiz from Planned Parenthood Action Fund. I'm sure they've reached their fundraising goal by now but it's a good wake up call for anyone who is not yet livid over the Republican War on Women. Talk about, if you're not outraged you're not paying attention.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Just Got This Email from the University Administration

Way to go Columbia! I will do a separate post about TurboVote and Project Vote Smart later. Go Columbia! This is informative and awesome.

Dear Columbia Students,

Registering to vote is the most straightforward way to engage in the democratic process. Some of you may already be registered in your home districts or here in New York. If not, please note that you are allowed to vote here in New York County if you have been a resident for at least 30 days. New York State voter registration forms are available in the Government & Community Affairs office, Low Library Room 309.

If you prefer to vote in your home district, TurboVote is a tool that makes it easy to register and vote while away at college. If you have not done so already, I encourage you to submit your registration forms or absentee ballots on time and to remind your fellow students, friends, and family to do the same.

For a state by state listing of voter registration deadlines and requirements for both primary and general elections, please go to Project Vote Smart and select your home state from the voter registration drop down menu. Additional information about voter registration can be found on the Government and Community Affairs website.

For those who will be voting in New York, please be reminded that the New York Primary Election is September 13th.

We know that voter turnout increases when young people urge other young people to vote. Whatever your voting preference, we hope that Columbia students will do their part to increase turnout in 2012 by making their voices heard come November 6.


Maxine Griffith, AICP

Executive Vice President

for Government & Community Affairs

and Special Advisor, Campus Planning

Columbia University

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ask An Election Nerd: How Can I Canvass During Football Games

Today's question comes from my tumblr, but I have received similar questions from various sources lately.


I work in a Midwestern state where everyone is obsessed with football. (You can probably guess which one :) ) I've seen people submit posts making fun of candidates or County Chairs who don't want to do voter contact on game days, but seriously it is insane. Everyone is drunk and our contact rate is like 1/2 what it normally is. You seem to be in favor of doing it anyway. Any advice for making it work?



Okay so first of all, thanks to whoever submitted this for giving me an excuse to dig up that picture. It is of my adorable intern in 2007 talking to my candidate's daughter at a University of Iowa homecoming game. Bad idea. The first rule of campaigning during football season is never try to actually campaign/register voters/do anything but just hang out at a game. People are drunk and uninterested. You will get a lot of people yelling at you and you will waste your entire afternoon.

On top of that, I do have some advice for what you should do.

1)Suck it up. I know this sounds harsh, but if the following pieces of advice don't work for you, you may just have to deal with it. We all have crappy canvasses and phone banks. With three months left there aren't that many more times you'll have to combat this phenomenon. Better to canvass and have a 10% contact rate than none at all. That said, there's an argument to be made here for efficiency, so depending on the scope of your race, I have a few more suggestions.

2)Make it up. If you maintain that you absolutely can't call or canvass during a game, then you have to find a way to make it up before or after. If a game starts at 3:30 on a Sunday and lasts for approximately three hours, you can still canvass from 10-3 and call from 6-9. That leaves about three hours of voter contact to make up during the week, which you can do by starting call time an hour earlier or adding a senior phone bank.

3)Switch it up. If you work on a statewide campaign where athletic allegiances are regional, consider trading voter contact hours with another region. For example, if you work in a college town, try canvassing in turf that's an hour away on Sunday in exchange for those organizers coming to your neck of the woods for a Saturday canvass.

4)Change it up. You can be strategic in your choice of a game day universe. Game time is a good time to focus your efforts on volunteer recruitment since supporters and volunteers are more likely than the general population to be kind and receptive to your calls. In addition, you can target your voter contact toward groups that are less likely to be absorbed in the game. Rather than incriminate myself with stereotypes, I'm going to share this article on football viewing demographics. You should be able to find more specifics for your particular sport/team.

Hope this helps and that you are able to find a way to enjoy your game day canvass!


Voting Rights Quiz

Did you know the new Voter ID law in Texas would allows a Handgun License but not a student ID?

Take the ACLU's Voting Rights Quiz to discover more sad and shocking facts about new voter ID Laws.

Advocate From Where You Stand: Voter Suppression Edition

An election official in an small borough in Pennsylvania says he will refuse to enforce the state's voter ID law because it is a violation of civil rights. (click)

What do you think? Does this man have a duty to his convictions or to uphold the law even if he disagrees with it?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Electronic Commitment Cards!

Oh God bless the OFA New Media team! They've done it again!

Back in the day (the same day in which I had to canvass uphill in the snow both ways) we used to collect commitment cards and then enter them into our database (known to campaign folk as "votebuilder" or "the VAN.") These commitments counted toward goals set for us by our Field Director (and probably a number of consultants) and were calculated based on the estimated turnout we would need in our respective regions.

But NOW you can skip the middleman and the data entry and put your commitment straight into the database! (To be fair, I don't know for a fact that that's how this works. I am just assuming.) If you live in a swing state and are supporting the President this is a great help to the campaign because it means the staff can focus their efforts on undecided voters who need an extra touch. As a bonus to you, the campaign is less likely to call you during dinner if you've already told them who you're voting for...unless they call to ask you to volunteer, but that's another story. You can also publish your commitment on facebook to let your friends and family know that you can't stop Barack.


Today In Voter Suppression (and Gerrymandering and Racism)

Benjamin Jealous speaking at SIPA

I am going to quote heavily from this article, in part because it is thorough and well written but moreover because I am so angry after reading it that I am having trouble forming coherent sentences. The deliberate and systematic racial discrimination described in the article is exactly what NAACP President, Benjamin Jealous, was talking about when I heard him speak about voting rights and discrimination last spring. This is from his speech:
“Historically, efforts at voter suppression have always been about suppressing issues of equality and social justice...Protecting the vote and ending racial profiling are actually the same thing. The disproportionate incarceration of the black community and voter suppression are exactly the same thing.
I've already posted a little about his speech (which moved me to tears, not an easy feat), but just now found the video, which should be required watching for anyone interested in voting rights. Jealous mostly focuses on incarceration as it pertains to voting rights, but the points he makes about the link between racism and voter suppression are extremely relevant to the Salon article, which chronicles five ways that the Texas Legislature is targeting Latino and African American voters. Excerpts from the article:
1. Lawmakers drew some districts that looked like Latino majority districts on paper — but removed Latinos who voted regularly and replaced them with Latinos who were unlikely to vote.

In the redistricting case, a panel of three federal judges found that Texas lawmakers had intentionally created districts that would weaken the influence of Latino voters, while appearing to satisfy the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. [Nancy note: Consider the level of cunning that had to be involved here. It actually offends my sensibilities.]

2. Lawmakers widened the gap between the proportion of the population that is Latino and African-Americans and the proportion of districts that are minority-controlled.

In the years leading up to the 2010 census, Texas’ population increased by 4.3 million people, 65 percent of them Latino. As a result, Texas gained four seats in Congress.

In their decision, the federal judges in the redistricting case noted that minority voters have no constitutional right to proportional representation. But the Voting Rights Act says states can’t weaken the electoral power of minorities. So, the judges reasoned, if there is already a gap between the minority population of a state and its political representation, states can’t let that gap grow wider.

3. Texas removed economic centers and district offices from African-American and Latino districts, while giving white Republicans perks.

In defending its new maps, Texas argued that the districts had been shaped to help Republicans and hurt Democrats — a perfectly legal tactic — and that race had been irrelevant to its choices. [Nancy note: WHAT? As if that's fine but keep going]

[Three protesting members of Congress] and African-American Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, all Democrats, also testified that their district offices were drawn out of their districts — a detriment because constituents want easily accessible district offices.

“No such surgery was performed on the districts of Anglo incumbents,” the judges found. “In fact, every Anglo member of Congress retained his or her district office.”

4. Divide and conquer: Texas “cracked” minority voters out of one district into three.

Lawmakers reshaped the district in a way that “cracked the politically cohesive and geographically concentrated Latino and African American communities,” and placed those voters “in districts in which they have no opportunity to elect their candidates of choice.”

5. Texas passed a voter-ID law with requirements that would make it disproportionately difficult for African-Americans and Latinos to vote.

It's important to note that the Texas voter ID law will not be in effect for the November election.

I know about and understand greed and the desire to keep your party in power. I'm not saying that's good, but it is what it is. This seems to be to surpass partisan politics and fall into the categories of racist and unAmerican.

I don't like to use the word "evil" when it comes to political issues. It implies a link between government and religion that I am not quite comfortable with. Besides, I want to believe that our leaders are motivated by good intentions no matter how misguided their choices are. But, it's really hard for me to come up with another word that fits this situation.

Of course I knew about all these phenomenon. I'd just never looked at them collectively while listening to Benjamin Jealous speak.

Reeling from this,


Ask an Election Nerd: Electoral College FAQs

You know what people are asking me about a lot lately? The Electoral College. Here we go!

What is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College is comprised of 538 people who vote on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December to choose the President. This method is known as "indirect election" because although individual citizens cast votes for the Executive branch, votes are aggregated by state (in most cases) and the popular will of each state is expressed by these representatives. The Electoral College never meets as one body but instead meet on that date to cast votes in their respective state capitals.

How are electoral votes allocated?
435 votes, one per each congressional seat, which are allocated to states by population. 100 votes, one per each Senator, so 2 for each state. Plus 3 votes for the District of Columbia. These 3 votes make DC's vote equivalent to that of Wyoming, which is the least populous state. In most states electoral votes are supposed to be cast on a winner take all basis, meaning that if the popular vote in New York State is for Barack Obama, then all of its electoral votes will go to Obama. Nebraska and Maine are exceptions where electoral votes are cast by popular vote per congressional district, so it is possible for the Nebraska and Maine delegations to split their votes. In these states the remaining two electors cast their votes based on statewide popular vote.

How are Electors chosen?
The way electors are chosen depends on the state. In most cases, each party with a candidate on the ballot chooses a slate of electors, often at their state convention, and that slate casts votes in the Electoral College if their candidate wins that state's popular vote.

What if the Electors don't vote the way they're supposed to? Because Electors are individuals with free will, it is possible for them not to cast their votes in line with the vox populi of their particular state or district. These people are called "faithless electors" and you can find a list of them here. In many states, electors are required to sign a pledge that they will accurately express the will of the voters and some states have small fines or even misdemeanor charges for faithless electors. There is no federal law governing Electors in this way. The most recent case of a faithless elector was in 2000 when Barbara Lett-Simmons of Washington DC abstained in order to protest the district's lack of congressional representation. Faithless electors have never altered the overall outcome of the Presidential election.

What if there's a tie? A candidate needs 270 votes to win in the Electoral College. If a candidate fails to win a majority of the votes, the winner is chosen by the House of Representatives. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams were chosen in this manner.

How often has someone lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College? Thrice! Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and George Bush in 2000.

The Electoral College system seems unfair and most Americans agree with me. So why do we have it?
Our founding fathers were not big fans of direct election and did not have faith in the general population to always make appropriate judgements. They were afraid that the voters could get hoodwinked by conniving politicians who would not act in their best interest. As one delegate to the Constitutional Convention put it, "the people are uninformed, and would be misled by a few designing men." Back in the day, it was much more difficult to disseminate information. As another delegate argued, "the extent of the country renders it impossible, that the people can have the requisite capacity to judge of the respective pretensions of the candidates." The founders also feared the "tyranny of the majority." They saw the Electoral College as a way of preventing certain regions or interest groups from ganging up on rest of the country. Advocates of the Electoral College system today point out that direct election of the Chief Executive could lead to policies that unfairly favor population centers because theoretically a candidate could win by campaigning in major cities and ignoring rural voters. Finally, to preserve the federal character of the nation, the founders wanted to ensure that Presidential candidates would not be able to ignore the needs of smaller states. These arguments are similar to those that led to the formation of our federal branch, when Senators were originally chosen by state legislatures.

I'm not really interested in making an argument for or against the Electoral College here, just in providing information. Did I leave anything out?


Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to School and Arrow's Impossibility Theorem

School starts tomorrow, and (hold your applause) I have already done my reading for the week! Basically all the courses I am taking are voting and elections related (hooray!) which makes me more excited to start the semester than I otherwise would be. In doing my reading I was reminded of one of my favorite lessons from last year, Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, and I thought I would share it with you!

Arrow's Theorem basically points out that aggregate voter preferences should be transitive, but they are not. Consider this scenario. We have three voters and three candidates, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and a chair. The voters prefer the candidates in the following order:

Voter 1: Obama>Romney>Chair
Voter 2: Chair>Obama>Romney
Voter 3: Romney>Chair>Obama

Individual voter preferences are transitive, meaning that if I would rather vote for Obama than Romney and would rather vote for Romney than a chair, then I would rather vote for Obama than a chair as well.

If the chair were not running, Obama would win since 2/3 of the voters prefer Obama to Romney. Similarly if Obama were to get fed up and drop out ,Romney would win since 2/3 of the voters prefer Romney to chair. Since Obama beats Romney and Romney beats chair, it stands to reason that Obama could beat a chair as well, but not so! If Romney were to drop out, the chair would win since 2/3 of the voters prefer the chair to Obama.

Arrow's Theorem is used by proponents of alternative voting systems (for example those where voters weight their preferences) to show that no rank order or majority voting system can accurately reflect the "will of the people."

Ridiculous Bedfellows

Hat Tip to The New Republic for pointing out this amazing wayward tale of FEC glory in which the Republican members of the FEC side with union bosses and Democratic members side against them. Here's what happened:

"In a little-noticed ruling last week... the three Republican commissioners on the FEC found that it was acceptable for a union in Hawaii to force its members to campaign on behalf of Colleen Hanabusa, a Democratic candidate in the special congressional election in Hawaii in May 2010. Two members of United Public Workers had filed a complaint stating they had lost their jobs when they refused to hold signs and canvass on behalf of Hanabusa. This might seem like just the sort of thing that Republicans would seize on as proof of union bosses wielding undue power over their minions—but no. The Democratic appointees on the FEC found the coercion illegal, but the Republican appointees did not—instead, they cited the 2010 Citizens United ruling as permitting the union’s compulsion.

Because if the union in this instance is allowed to compel its members to campaign on behalf of a favored candidate, that means that a corporation is allowed to do so, too. And just as the lifting of spending restrictions ends up meaning much more for corporations than for unions—since corporations have a lot more money to spend—any lifting of restrictions on compelled political activity would mean more for corporations as well, since there are a lot more people working at big companies than in the shrinking ranks of unionized workers."

The commission is deadlocked and the case remains unsettled, but the potential implications are harrowing. No one should be forced to campaign on behalf of a candidate by anyone especially her employer. That seems completely contrary to the whole free and fair elections thing. Could you imagine Walmart deciding to make its employees campaign on behalf of Mitt Romney at peril of losing their jobs? That is some Orwellian noise right there.

Happy Labor Day Everybody! (No but seriously, in general you should thank a union member today if you like weekends and safe working conditions.) But still, wow.

It's a Beautiful Day in the Negrohood!

"Ben Akselrod [who] is hoping to unseat Democratic Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in the Sheepshead Bay district primary race...apologized after his campaign sent out a mailer [accidentally] using the word 'negrohood.'"

The actual text of the mailer is as follows:
"I am running for Assembly because I believe the number 1 job of that office is to keep the community safe. The current assemblyman has allowed crime to go up over 50% in our negrohood so far this year. I am fighting for video cameras throughout our community to protect our seniors who are the most vulnerable and cut down on anti-semitic attacks in our community. I will also make sure the mayor gives our community more police to patrol our streets."

In case you needed a reason to proofread and re-proofread your campaign mailers, here it is.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Another Year Older and Shockingly, Wiser.

A year ago, I shared with you what amounted to my Dear John letter to campaigns. I reflected on everything that campaigns had given me and the reasons I felt I needed to take a break. So at the precipice of my second and final year of graduate school (and likely my final year away from campaigning) I had to ask myself: Was it worth it? Am I accomplishing my goals? Am I on the road to what I set out to do? My answer is resoundingly "Yes."

When I worked on campaigns full time, I kept telling myself "when I'm in the same place for a while," "when I have free time." Before campaigns, I was in college and coping with health problems that provided me (however legitimately) with similar scapegoats. Moving to New York meant taking on a huge amount of responsibility that I had been delaying for years. Time to take care of myself means that I actually have to take care of myself, even when I would rather eat junk food, avoid going to the doctor or leave clothes on the floor. Time for relationships means putting myself out there without the campaign caveats of being too tired, too busy and too far away. The unfettered opportunity to reach for my goals also means the possibility of failing, on my own with no excuses. Fear is the fact that what you want is a real possibility.

What I've really longed for the past few years, much more than weight loss or a boyfriend, was stability. I didn't want to be thirty and running around the country not sleeping or knowing when or where my next job would be. What I feared was that nothing but that lifestyle could satisfy me and that I would be forever stuck between those two worlds. One of my best friends describes people with that kind of passion and intensity as fire. When you're in control, you're a campfire. You create glow, warmth and inspiration. People are drawn to you. When you're not in control you're like a four alarm, unpredictable and destructive. I spent the last year learning how to be a campfire, terrified that the only options were to spend the rest of my life burning through things or put the fire out. Here's what I know how to do now that I didn't before:

1) I quit things and I change direction. I spent some time on awful mismanaged campaigns where my work and passion was unappreciated. Same goes for friendships, boyfriends, really anything in which I had invested time and effort. My friends and family didn't understand why I didn't just leave, but quitting seemed anathema. It seemed like admitting failure to leave something or change my mind about what my goals were. It would mean that my investment was wasted. I learned a lot from sticking it out on bad campaigns and less than ideal relationships. There's no doubt that that was what I needed to do at the time. What I know now is that there is a way to take value from something while admitting that it no longer works.

2) I'm getting better with uncertainty. Part of my intensity is that I've always tended to see things in black and white. As Heidi Klum would say "you are either in or you are out." When I was deciding whether to go back to school or go on a campaign, I contacted a friend who has been in and out of campaigns for the past decade. His advice was "whatever you decide, it won't be the last time you have this conversation with yourself." It sounds simple enough, but it never really occurred to me that it was okay to not know when and whether I would go back. One thing I've learned this year is that every choice and every relationship is an ongoing conversation. It's okay not to know where things will end up.

3) I accept people for what they're capable of right now. On campaigns, we're taught to ask the most from people and expect them to rise to the occasion. This is a good and effective management technique, but it's a recipe for failure in your personal life. I've been guilty of holding the people around me to the high standards to which I hold myself and coming to some pretty harsh conclusions. "This friend wasn't there for me when I wanted her to be, therefore she must not care enough about me." As opposed to, "I know this person cares about me, but she wasn't able to be there when I needed her. I wonder what's going on with her." Even when this line of logic causes me to end a relationship, especially a romantic one, I can do so with much more peace and clarity.

4) I identify what I want. I'm not a big fan of the "Law of Attraction" because I think the concept that people bring things like death or disease upon themselves through their thoughts is some new jack bullshit. But I do think that there is something to putting your intentions out into the universe. When you really whittle down what it is that you want, you may not attract new opportunities into your life but you recognize them when they come. It's like when you learn a new word: Once it's in your head you start seeing and hearing it everywhere. When considering why I was so tempted to take time off and go back on a campaign even though I had explicitly decided not to do so, I realized that more than gaining experience or electing good candidates, it was important to me to contribute to the campaign community. Since then, I have been honored to have my blog and tumblr become a mainstay of many campaign offices. Through my blogging, I was invited to lead a volunteer recruitment training for several hundred people, a long time dream of mine. My blog and tumblr already existed, but since I clarified for myself what I wanted I was able to steer them in that direction.

5) I don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. One of the factors that kept me making excuses about things like weight loss and cleaning is that when I set a goal, I tend to pursue it obsessively and relentlessly. As a lifelong mess maker saying "I'm going to keep my apartment clean" felt too daunting. I couldn't imagine never again leaving clothes on the floor or dishes in the sink, but I also couldn't imagine committing to do something and then accepting less than 100% from myself. It doesn't take a masters degree to realize that that approach to self-improvement is unsustainable. Without campaigns to channel my manic and obsessive tendencies, I've had to learn to be okay with deciding to keep my apartment cleaner rather than spotless or eating pizza in the larger context of trying to lose weight.

I guess that's why I'm able to deem this year a success despite so much disappointment. Do I still miss campaigns? Yes. Have I found a way to be happy without them? Not entirely. Will I break these rules and make choices that bring me from campfire to four alarm territory? Absolutely. But for the first time in my life, I'm okay with that. I'm looking forward to a year with just as much learning, but more happiness.

Thanks for sharing this last year with me,